Saturday, December 16, 2017

AFP chief on nationwide martial law: 'We can never tell'

From Rappler (Dec 16): AFP chief on nationwide martial law: 'We can never tell'

'It depends on developments and of course it will depend on the actions of the other side,' says Armed Forces chief General Rey Guerrero


Armed Forces chief General Rey Leonardo Guerrero offered no public assurance that martial law will not be expanded nationwide.

"We can never tell for now. We can only extend our projections up to what the information we have at hand. Based on the information we have at hand, we need to focus in Mindanao," Guerrero told reporters on Friday, December 15.

"As for the other parts of the country, nobody can tell. It depends on developments and of course it will depend on the actions of the other side," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said a nationwide declaration of martial law is possible if the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, grows and becomes a bigger threat after the cancellation of peace talks. (READ: Duterte on nationwide martial law: All options on the table)

Duterte said this will be the call of the military and the police.

Retired generals advising Duterte had dismissed this possibility, however. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and newly retired AFP chief Eduardo Año said they saw no reason for an expanded martial law.

Año is now an Undersecretary at the Deparment of the Interior and Local Government tasked to supervise the police. (READ: Duterte generals see no reason for nationwide martial law)

NPA presence is concentrated in Mindanao but they are also active in pockets of Luzon and the Visayas. But Esperon, Lorenzana, and Año said the communist rebels outside Mindanao can be reduced to a police concern.

QC police arrest suspected ASG member charged with murder

From Rappler (Dec 16): QC police arrest suspected ASG member charged with murder

Police capture 35-year-old Abdulmuin Yahiya in Salaam Compound, Quezon City

SUSPECTED TERRORIST. QCPD cops nab suspected Abu Sayyaf Group member. QCPD photo

SUSPECTED TERRORIST. QCPD cops nab suspected Abu Sayyaf Group member. QCPD photo

MANILA, Philippines – A suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member charged with murder was nabbed by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) on Friday, December 15.

QCPD director Police Chief Superintendent Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said 35-year-old Abdulmuin Yahiya was arrested at around 10 am.
He was issued a non-bailable warrant of arrest by the Isabela City, Basilan Regional Trial Court in August 2006. But he remained in hiding as a tricycle driver at the Salaam compound in Tandang Sora Avenue, until his arrest on Friday.

Police suspect Yahiya is part of the Abu Sayyaf because of his close ties with Hadji Taufik Sanihin Yahiya, who used the aliases Nonong Yakan or Nonong Yahiya.

The latter is one of the known hardcore members of the Abu Sayyaf. He is also wanted for 9 counts of murder and 4 counts of frustrated murder.

None of Yahiya's neighbors at the compound knew he has a standing arrest warrant. He was even an active member of the Salaam Crime Watch Group.

"Ito pong arrested wanted person ay naging miyembro ng Salaam Crime Watch Group at nagsilbi nang maayos, ngunit gusto man niyang magbagong buhay, may pananagutan pa rin siya sa batas," said Eleazar.

(The arrested wanted person became a member of the Salaam Crime Watch Group and he served well, but even if he wanted to change his ways, he still has to answer to the law.)

"Kaya ako ay lubos na nagpapasalamat sa ating mga kasamahang Muslim sa Salaam compound sa patuloy na kooperasyon at suporta sa ating mga adhikain," he added.

(That's why I'm so thankful for our Muslim brothersy at the Salaam compound for their continued cooperation and support for our endeavors.)

Alleged high-ranking NPA leader surrenders to army

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 15): Alleged high-ranking NPA leader surrenders to army

AN ALLEGED finance logistics officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to the 39th Infantry Battalion on Tuesday, Dec. 12, on its headquarters in Arakan, North Cotabato.

1Lt. Silver Adell Belvis, the civil-military operations (CMO) officer of 39th Infantry Battalion, identified the suspect as alias Danny, who worked for Squad Abe and Front Committee 53 for one year, who brought with him his M1 Carbine rifle.

Danny told soldiers that his NPA commander, alias Jecko, has been pocketing the cash that was promised to them when they joined the rebel group. The commander also allegedly scrimped on food even with all the money they collected.
“The NPA always claims that the government is corrupt but the truth is that they are the ones that are corrupt,” he added.

The surrender of Danny was made possible through the effort of a tribal leader in the locality of Arakan Valley. He will be enrolled in the Comprehensive Localized Integration Program (CLIP) offered to former eebels.

In his statement, Lt Col. Harold Argamosa, commander of 39th Infantry Battalion, noted that many NPA members were tricked by the propaganda of the communist organization. “The challenge is on how to reach this individual in order for them to be enlightened from these communist deceit,” Argamosa said.

“We are always open for those NPA that would like to surrender, there are many ways in addressing your issues, taking up arms should not be the choice,” he added.

Suspects in murder of Magpet barangay secretary identified

From MindNews (Dec 16): Suspects in murder of Magpet barangay secretary identified

Authorities have identified suspects in the killing Friday of a barangay secretary in Magpet, North Cotabato.

But Chief Inspector Rommel Constantino, chief of Magpet Police, said they already have the profiles of the suspects but cannot as yet divulge their identities.

Joel Ecnad, secretary of Barangay Manobisa in Magpet town, was gunned down, at around 11:20 a.m. on Friday in a thickly populated community in Poblacion, Magpet, by one of the two armed suspects who wore black bonnets.

Police said that after the gunmen made sure their target was dead, they withdrew to an unknown direction on board a black SkyGo motorcycle without a plate number.

Ecnad’s friend, identified only as Marilyn, was hit by a stray bullet. She sustained a gunshot wound on her left arm.

6 soldiers hurt in grenade blast in Surigao town

From MindNews (Dec 16): 6 soldiers hurt in grenade blast in Surigao town

Six soldiers under the 30th Infantry Battalion sustained minor wounds when a grenade exploded while they were on patrol in a village in San Francisco town in Surigao del Norte Wednesday evening, Major Arvin L. Dugho, the battalion’s press information officer told MindaNews on Saturday afternoon

He said the soldiers were conducting a patrol in Barangay Magtangale at 6:25 p.m. on December 13 when a suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members lobbed a hand grenade.

Injured soldiers were rushed to a hospital in Surigao City for medical treatment.

“No one was seriously hurt and they are now back in the camp,” Dugho said.

Army bares new NPA threat in Pangasinan

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): Army bares new NPA threat in Pangasinan

The Philippine Army (PA) has admitted there are threats posed by a new group of New People’s Army (NPA) in Pangasinan, however, this makes the military more determined to end insurgency in the province.

Colonel Henry A. Robinson. Jr., commanding officer of the 702nd Infantry (Defender) Brigade, admitted that one of PA's targets "is to work for the declaration of Pangasinan as insurgency-free.”

Robinson was here on Thursday when he briefed the Pangasinan’s Peace and Order Council and the Anti-Drug Abuse Council during a joint meeting at the Pangasinan Technology and Development Center here.

He told the councils that the Army is confronted by a new group of communist terrorist named Nueva Ecija-Pangasinan Commission (NEPC).

NEPC is composed of two armed groups: the KLG Caraballo and LGP 1, he said.

He said the KLG Caraballo is operating in eastern Pangasinan, specifically in the municipalities of Umingan, San Quintin, Natividad and San Nicolas.

LGP is found in some municipalities of Nueva Ecija, he said.

Robinson added the 702nd Brigade is exerting all efforts to have the province of Pangasinan declared “peaceful and insurgency-free.”

The Army is conducting anti-insurgency operations which clipped the capabilities of the KLG Caraballo group.

The operations are carried out to minimize the threat of the armed group and to ensure security in the province, he said.

Governor Amado Espino III, chairman of both councils, hailed the initiative of the PA to declare the province as insurgency -free.

He recalled that Pangasinan was first declared insurgency-free in 2010 under the leadership of his father, then -Governor Amado T. Espino, Jr., now congressman of the fifth district of Pangasinan.

PH to tackle reported developments in South China Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): PH to tackle reported developments in South China Sea

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday assured that the Philippines would raise the issue of reported Chinese developments in the South China Sea in an upcoming bilateral consultative meeting with China.

Cayetano said this when asked about the recent Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative report, which said China has completed or began working on about 72 acres, or 290,000 square meters in Spratlys and in the Paracels within 2017.

Cayetano said he is aware of reports about "certain activities" in the strategic waterway, but assured that the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are always on a close watch.

Cayetano guaranteed that on a bilateral level, this subject will be addressed, particularly during the China-Philippines bilateral consultative meeting expected to be held in the first quarter of 2018.

"If it's brought up in multilateral, 'di tayo aatras (we will not back off) from discussing it and coming up with a solution," he added.

He revealed that in old areas where claimants already constructed infrastructure in the past, countries are "still building."

"Sa (In) old areas, we monitored that a lot are still building sa kanilang hawak (where they have claims). Sa (In) Pagasa, we're repairing. Malaysia, Vietnam, China are repairing. But everyone is saying it's defensive," he said. "So that's where the Code of Conduct (COC) comes in."

He said not a part of Pagasa or any of its features has been lost since President Rodrigo Duterte became president.

"We lost a lot in the previous administration and administrations," he said. "Again, we're not blaming them, but we're trying to solve that problem."

AFP to use 2-pronged offensive in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): AFP to use 2-pronged offensive in Mindanao

With a year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be intensifying operations against the New People's Army and terrorist groups operating in the region.

The announcement was made by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero in a briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Friday, saying residents should expect military operations intensified in scope and coverage.

"When I mentioned focused, I meant yung focus sa buong Mindanao and yung priority natin sa eastern Mindanao side is yung NPA, while on the western Mindanao ang priority ng Mindanao is yung remnants ng ISIS threat" (When I mentioned focused, I meant that the focus of the operation is on the entire Mindanao and the priority will be on Eastern Mindanao for anti-NPA operations while on Western Mindanao, the concentration will be on remnants of the ISIS threat), said Guerrero.

Guerrero said more patrols and checkpoints will be conducted in areas known to be infested with communist rebels to deter terrorist actions.

The AFP chief said the Philippines' ongoing unilateral, bilateral, and trilateral arrangements with neighboring countries will enhance troops' maritime awareness especially in the country's southern borders.

Guerrero was referring to the recently signed trilateral cooperative agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia in the Sulu Sea and the bilateral agreement with Indonesia in the Celebes Sea.

The agreements have greatly reduced kidnapping incidents as only 11 have been recorded this year compared to the 36 or 37 posted in 2016.

Army chief fetes troops involved in Marawi liberation

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Army chief fetes troops involved in Marawi liberation

Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito D. Bautista honored troops and units from various services involved in the five-month battle to liberate Marawi City from Maute Group terrorists in a short ceremony in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Friday.

Bautista led the awarding ceremony where personnel and units of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Coast Guard were honored for their contribution in defeating the terrorists, Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson said.

Tiongson said a total of 39 Combat Commander Kagitingan badges, four Silver Cross medals, and 14 Military Merit medals were awarded.

Meanwhile, plaques of recognition were given to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Infantry Divisions; Special Operations Command; First Scout Ranger Regiment; Light Reaction Regiment; Special Forces Regiment (Airborne); Mechanized Infantry Division; Army Artillery Regiment; Army Signal Regiment; Army Intelligence Regiment; Civil-Military Operations Regiment; 52nd Engineer Brigade; 53rd Engineer Brigade; 54th Engineer Brigade; 500th Engineer Combat Battalion; Army Reserve Command; and the Army Support Command.

Bautista also recognized 16 other military, police, and coast guard units: Philippine Air Force’s 15th Strike Wing, 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, 5th Fighter Wing, 300 Air Intelligence and Security Group, 3rd Tactical Operations Group, and 710th Special Operations Wing; Philippine Marines Corps; Naval Special Operations Group; Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Health Service Command, and Intelligence Service; PNP Special Action Force; Police Regional Office 10; Police Regional Office Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao; Health Service; Maritime Group; and the Philippine Coast Guard.

“Bilang dating Commander ng Joint Task Force Marawi, nakita at naramdaman ko po lahat ng sakripisyo ng inyong mga units at kawal upang ating malampasan ang tinuturing natin na isa sa pinakamatinding pagsubok na kinaharap hindi lamang ng ating Armed Forces kundi ng ating buong bansa (As former commander of Joint Task Force Marawi, I witnessed and felt all the sacrifices of your units and troops to get through one of the most serious trials faced not only by the Armed Forces, but by the entire country),” said Bautista.

“Kasama na rito ang hamon sa PNP at Philippine Coast Guard. Kung kaya’t sa araw na ito, minarapat natin na kilalanin at pasalamatan ang lahat ng mga units at indibidwal na tumugon sa hamon na mapalaya ang Marawi at maprotektahan ang lahat ng mamamayan nito laban sa mga teroristang grupo (This includes the challenges faced by the PNP and the Philippine Coast Guard. That is why on this day, we fittingly recognize and thank all units and individuals who responded to the challenge to free Marawi and protect all citizens from terrorist groups),” Bautista said.

PH, China to bolster bilateral defense cooperation

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): PH, China to bolster bilateral defense cooperation

Senior defense and military officials of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China on Friday conducted talks to bolster the two nations’ bilateral defense cooperation.

Defense public affairs office chief, Arsenio Andolong, said the Philippine delegation was led by
Undersecretary for Defense Policy Ricardo A. David Jr.

David’s group met with Rear Adm. Jiang Guoping, Assistant Chief of General Staff of China’s Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission (CMC), and other senior CMC officials, as both sides resume the Annual Defense Security Talks (ADST).

The ADST is the bilateral dialogue mechanism between the Philippines and China, which was established under the purview of the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defense Cooperation.

Since 2005, four ADSTs have been alternately hosted by the two countries, with the last held in Beijing in 2013.

Andolong said the 5th ADST provided both sides the opportunity to exchange views on the current regional security situation and flesh out concrete plans to cooperate in addressing security concerns mutually faced by the Philippines and China.

Specifically, the discussions underscored defense cooperation in addressing non-traditional security challenges, such as terrorism and violent extremism, as well as man-made and natural disasters.

The Philippines and China also agreed to increase cooperation in the area of training and education, not only to share expertise and best practices, but also foster friendly relations between both peoples.

The talks also emphasized the importance of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) for the region’s economic growth and development.

Along this line, both sides expressed support for the peaceful settlement of disputes through lawful, non-coercive, and transparent means.

The Philippine side likewise expressed optimism that the adoption of the Framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) last August has brought the two nations closer to the long-sought conclusion of a binding and meaningful COC.

In conclusion, both sides expressed confidence that with avenues for open and substantive dialogue, such as the ADST, the Philippines and China would be able to further cooperate and manage differences towards contributing to a peaceful, stable, and prosperous region.